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Spring has well and truly arrived – and that also means for many people it's hay fever season!

Hay fever affects your nose and throat and can play havoc with your eyes, making them red, itchy, teary and swollen. Hay fever that affects your eyes is called allergic conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis can be uncomfortable, but it’s not usually a risk to your vision. It’s important to treat your hay fever symptoms to avoid damaging the surface of your eye or potentially introducing bacteria or viruses that may cause an infection.

Pollen and histamines

The increased amount of pollen in the air in spring is why hay fever peaks at this time of year – although some people can experience it year round.

Pollen causes issues for those who are allergic to it – these people’s immune system is triggered and it releases histamines into their bloodstream which causes the swollen, itchy or red eyes.

Tips to manage hay fever

If you suffer from hay fever, there are a few things you can do to reduce the severity of symptoms, such as:

  • Wash your hands regularly, this can help remove allergens on your hands, and they you won’t transfer them to your eyes
  • Stay indoors when the pollen count is high, particularly in the morning
  • If you need to go outdoors, wear sunglasses or glasses and avoid rubbing your eyes
  • Keep doors and windows in your house closed in order to keep the allergens out
  • Wash your hair after being outside to rinse the pollens away
  • Vacuum and mop your floors frequently to minimise pollens in your living space
  • Take your shoes off at the door to avoid taking pollens throughout the house
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Treating affected eyes

Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes as this can make the itchiness worse and potentially introduce more allergens.  If you are experiencing eye irritation or changes to your vision it's important to visit your local optometrist for expert advice. They  will be able to assess and diagnose any itch, discomfort or irritation, and provide appropriate treatment to relieve it, including prescribing medications if over the counter treatments don’t work.

Hay fever can also cause red and inflamed eyelids, which can be uncomfortable.

A cold compress can be applied to your eyelids gently. The compress can be a clean cloth or a cool gel pack wrapped in a soft cloth. If the symptoms persist or worsen, contact your optometrist for further evaluation and treatment options.

Sensitivity to light can be another affect of hay fever, wearing sunglasses with UV protection is highly recommended and can provide some relief.

Seeing your optometrist is important  if your symptoms persist or worsen despite taking precautions.